QM, a novel gene that was originally identified as a putative tumor suppressor gene, has since been cloned from species encompassing members of the plant, animal, and fungal kingdoms. Sequence comparison indicates that QM has been highly conserved throughout eukaryotic evolution. QM is a member of a multigene family in both mouse and man, is expressed in a broad range of tissues, and is downregulated during adipocyte differentiation. Jif-1, a chicken homolog of QM, has been reported to interact with the protooncogene c-Jun, and to inhibit transactivation of AP-1 regulated promoters in vitro. Furthermore, disruption of the yeast QM homolog is lethal. Although these studies suggest that the QM gene product plays an important role within the normal cell, the precise role of QM has remained elusive. In this study, a thorough analysis of the pattern of QM expression during mouse development was undertaken, using the techniques of whole mount in situ hybridization and whole mount immunohistochemistry, in combination with conventional immunohistochemical analysis of tissue sections. QM is expressed in numerous embryonic tissues, and is differentially expressed throughout the embryo. The cytoplasmic localization of QM is consistent with its reported association with ribosomes, and inconsistent with its previously hypothesized function as a direct modulator of the nuclear protooncogene c-Jun. QM is expressed in the developing epidermis, and is particularly strong within developing limbs. Analysis of embryos of various stages of gestation indicate that QM is downregulated in the surface ectoderm of the embryo as development proceeds. QM protein is not detectable within either nucleated or enucleated red blood cell precursors. QM is strongly expressed within chondrocytes within the transition zone of developing limb cartilage, as well as within differentiated keratinocytes of the suprabasal regions of the epidermis. Furthermore, within both cartilage and skin, there is an inverse relationship between QM expression and proliferative capacity. This pattern of QM expression suggests that this novel gene product may be involved in processes such as posttranslational protein processing which are essential for differentiation of specific tissues during embryogenesis.